Social Networking and Your Library OPAC!

Article excerpt


While many schools are blocking access to social networking applications on the internet, school library automation OPACs are beginning to provide such applications to students and staff. Talking with school library media specialists about this emerging trend provided an interesting insight to their hesitations and acceptance. However, before exploring the consumer thought, let's explore what we are talking about and what the vendors have to say.

Many school library media specialists and other educators are well acquainted with Web 2.0 social networking applications. In the simplest terms, Web 2.0 is the use of internet technologies to enhance information sharing and the creative and collaborative development of projects. Web 2.0 has led to the development of web-based communities such as MySpace, tagging sites such as Delicious and LibraryThing, and innumerable wikis and blogs. users have been using these interactive features for some time. As you search Amazon you see customer reviews and ratings, suggested lists, and a variety of other social network features. Borders has recently redeveloped its website to provide users with a more bookstorelike experience.

For a few years the concept of integrating Web 2.0 into library automation has been discussed by Casey Bisson (, Marshall Breeding (, and others. As early as 2005, Paul Miller and Talis director Ken Chad were providing a wake-up call to the library community about the need for changes in library automation. They felt electronic catalog technology lacked the ability to integrate into the new version of the web. Providing user experiences that equaled those on the internet was, in their opinion, necessary if libraries were to stay viable information providers.



Just over a year ago Auto-Graphics (www4.autographics. com/solutions/libraries.htm) developed an OPAC product, Agent, that delivers tools to improve information discovery while also addressing the new nature of the social web. Agent includes a clustered results engine, user tagging, user comments, reviews, ratings, added subjects and keywords, and other information to provide peer input to library collections, as well as many other user-centered applications.



Not willing to wait on vendor development, Christopher Harris, coordinator for Genesee Valley BOCES, has taken the issue of integrating Web 2.0 with library automation into his own hands. Using open source Drupal, he has constructed a library portal, Fish4Info, ( which provides about half of the BOCES libraries the capability to append pathfinders, calendars, students' book reviews, tagging, book ratings, and social bookmarking to the systemwide catalog.


Follett's Destiny

The first school library automation system to integrate such features was released this past July by Follett Software Co. Destiny Library Manager v8.5 Destiny Quest provides an online searching interface designed to catch the attention of students used to using the internet. The standard search interface combines with social networking in a colorful graphical environment allowing students, teachers, and staff to give star or text ratings to books and submit text, audio, or video reviews. The school community can recommend books to each other, suggest items for purchase, and request additional copies. Destiny Quest also improves the ability to upload digital objects to MARC records. This upgrade also provides Destiny users with a free, 65-title ebook collection.


To develop an understanding of what other vendors are doing, I talked to SirsiDynix and Mandarin. …


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